Friday, August 3, 2007

I've moved!

I've moved my blog over to wordpress:

It's still somewhat under construction but I'll be posting there from now on. I'll keep this one up for a while though.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Grammatical/Historical/Literal Interpretation and Hebrews 10:5

While going through Sailhamer (phenomenal book—more on that in later posts) I was reading through different theories of biblical theology throughout the ages. One of the methods he described was by a Jewish rabbi named Rashi (about AD 1100). He devoted his life to provide a defense against Christianized interpretations of the OT by focusing on Scripture’s true, historical meaning. In doing this Rashi bucked the current trends of even his contemporary rabbis by keeping away from many messianic expectations of the Targums in favor of a “literal” reading of the OT.

I am firmly entrenched in my understanding that true communication happens when the receptor understands the intent of the speaker—or in the case of written communication the reader understands the intent of the author. Thus, finding authorial intent is at the core of communication. The alternative to that is reader-response criticism where I simply can insert meaning into a text or message that was not intended by the author. If that is the way the world worked, communication would not be possible.

One of my biggest fears in the study of exegesis is that I will come across a Jewish scholar versed in the Scriptures who calls out my NT writers for violating the very essence of communication—authorial intent. My biggest fear is that I would have nothing to answer him. A case in point example is from a project I turned in a few years ago in a class on the use of the OT by the author of Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:4-10 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, as He was coming into the world, He said: You did not want sacrifice and offering, but You prepared a body for Me. 6 You did not delight in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings. 7 Then I said, "See, I have come-- it is written about Me in the volume of the scroll-- to do Your will, O God!"a 8 After He says above, You did not desire or delight in sacrifices and offerings, whole burnt offerings and sin offerings, (which are offered according to the law), 9 He then says, See, I have come to do Your will.1 He takes away the first to establish the second. 10 By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.

The author’s argument is clear. Animal sacrifices do not please God by taking away sin—only the one sacrifice of the body of Christ does that. So the author puts the words of Psalm 40 into the mouth of Christ, “You did not want sacrifice and offering, but You prepared a body for Me.” This is a clear reference to His incarnation since he closes this section in verse 10 with the fact that we have been sanctified through the offering of that body. Where all of this gets sticky is when we go back to Psalm 40 and look at the quotation in its original setting.

Psalm 40:6-8 You do not delight in sacrifice and offering; You open my ears to listen. You do not ask for a whole burnt offering or a sin offering. 7 Then I said, "See, I have come; it is written about me in the volume of the scroll. 8 I delight to do Your will, my God; Your instruction resides within me."

Notice, the phrase “you prepared a body for me” is not there. Rather, the OT passage reads “You have opened my ears to listen.” I actually think the New Living Translation’s take on this passage is the best.

NLT Psalm 40:6 6 You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand -- you don't require burnt offerings or sin offerings.

Both of these English translations naturally use the Hebrew as their original. The author of Hebrews, however, never used the Hebrew but quotes all of his OT passages from the Septuagint.

LXX Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and offering you did not want; but ears you have prepared for me: whole burnt offering and sacrifice for sin you did not require.

The LXX translators make one significant change to the Hebrew. The Hebrew word used for “open” [carah] usually is translated as “dig” or “excavate” depending on context. Of course you open ears, you don’t excavate them (you’ve just got to love the vividness of Hebrew: you excavated my ears :)). The Greek translators go with a good dynamic equivalent and use the word “prepare” [katartizo]. The word is different, but the sense is still the same.

Hebrew OT: You opened my ears to understand that You don’t desire burnt offerings.
LXX: You prepared my ears to understand that You don’t desire burnt offerings.

Now here comes the author of Hebrews. It is no longer David who speaks but Christ. He keeps the same word for “prepare” [katarizo] and seems to go with a metonymy idea with ear and body. The words are the same (except for ear and body) but the MEANING is completely different.

Hebrew OT: Sacrifice and offering You have not desired; ears You have opened for me.
MEANING: You have made me, David, listen and I understand that you don’t desire burnt offerings.
LXX: Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, ears You have prepared for me. MEANING: You have prepared my (David’s) ears to understand that You don’t desire burn offerings.

Author of Hebrews: Sacrifice and offering You have not desired; a body you have prepared for me.
MEANING: Because you take no pleasure in burn sacrifices you have prepared for Me (Jesus) a body when I came into this world with which I will do Your will and sanctify Your own.

I am sure this would be one of those passages that Rashi would have vigorously debated in AD 1100 to show that the authors of the NT did violence to the OT context by ignoring the authorial intent. In previous posts I have already noted how Christ claimed to be the fulfillment of the OT. So that leaves us with two hard questions.

Question 1: In this passage specifically, what does it mean that Christ fulfills the OT Scriptures? Since my faith rests on the fact that I believe the NT authors legitimately use the OT, in what way are they legitimate?
Option A: There is no resolution. The NT authors did what they did because they were guided by the Holy Spirit to do so and we have no right to question their methods.

Option B: There is a historical/grammatical/literal resolution to this passage that we should have seen in the OT.

Option C: There is a historical/grammatical/literal resolution to this passage that we would have never guessed by studying the OT alone. However, now that we have the NT we have a historical/grammatical/literal resolution that was not there before.

Option D: There is a non-historical/grammatical/literal resolution that is still a valid resolution (perhaps in light of a fuller canon and/or a salvation historical interpretation).

Question 2: Am I allowed to do what the author of Hebrews just did in this passage when I interpret the OT?
If Option A is the resolution: The NT author’s experience was one-of-a-kind and non-reduplicatable. I have to play by different rules than the NT authors and have nothing to learn from them. I am stuck using a historical/grammatical/literal method even though they are not. Not only that, but Paul mocks me in the process accusing me of using the method of those whose hearts are still veiled.

If Option B is the resolution: I would never have guessed that this passage speaks of Christ with just he OT and a historical/grammatical/literal interpretation. Thus, resolution B is impossible to reduplicate.

If Option C is the resolution: I can only interpret OT passages that are “re-interpreted” in the NT and find Christ in these passages. Passages that are not mentioned in the NT as specifically Christological must be interpreted apart from the Christ-event. Thus, for example, Psalm 40 must be preached from the OT like the author of Hebrews does, but I can take my message on Psalm 19 and preach it Saturday morning at the Synagogue and Sunday morning in church. Or again, the Passover narrative must be preached with Christ as our passover lamb, but Samson and Delilah has nothing to do with Jesus.

If Option D is the resolution: As you can probably guess, this is where I find myself going. If I can figure out what the NT authors did, I can reduplicate it. Goldsworthy suggested a salvation history approach. That really doesn’t work in this passage at all. Canonical might work but I have to finish Sailhamer first.

As always, feel free to leave comments and help me think!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Book Review: Graeme Goldsorthy's Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture

Let me say first of all: great book! It’s a must read for anybody who ever wants to preach from the OT, even if you disagree with him on several levels as I do. But it’s polite to say nice things first so here it goes.

Things I Loved
1. "Jesus says the Old Testament is a book about Him” (p. 20). That is basically Goldsworthy’s thesis throughout the book. Even if you don’t like the way he tries to make that statement work, you still have to deal with that statement.
2. “Let us by all means tap into the wealth of background information to the New Testament found in the dead Sea Scrolls and rabbinic Judaism, but let us never forget that the testimony of the New Testament is that the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth forced a great gulf in biblical interpretation between Christians and Jews” (p. 46).
“In taking a wholly unexpected path, from the point of view of Judaism, [Jesus] laid claim to be the ultimate revelation that establishes for all time the correct way to interpret the Old Testament. He not only showed that contemporary Judaism was essentially on the wrong course but also demonstrated the radical point that the Old Testament simply cannot be understood apart from himself” (p. 50).
“The New Testament shows that it was certainly not self-evident to contemporary Jews that Jesus fulfilled the expectations of Israel. We might ask why this is. The answer lies in the fact that Jesus is God’s final and fullest word on the matter. That is, he is not simply fulfillment; he is also further and final revelation” (p. 79).
Here’s the gist: Jesus’ contemporaries had it all wrong! They were wrong about Him and (so Goldsworthy) His kingdom. They expected the wrong thing. And even in Paul’s day they still had that same veil over their hearts when Moses was read (2 Cor 3). This leads into #3.
3. I preach as if I had a veil over my heart if I don’t preach Christ form the OT. If I preach as if the cross had never happened, I am not doing my job. The OT is a book about Christ.

Why, Graeme, Why?
I love the fact that Goldsworthy pounds home the point that the OT is a Christian book. However, I am not thrilled by the way he makes it a Christian book. His MO is salvation history—that is, you make the Hebrew Scriptures a Christian book by placing each event into its salvation historical grid. Thus, for instance, Athaliah’s failed attempt to kill off all of the royal heirs of Judah is “Christianized” though connecting it via salvation history to Jesus. Without a son of David there is no ultimate Son of David. There are two main problems with “Christianizing” the Hebrew Scriptures by means of salvation history.

1. The link between the OT and Christ is not an exegetical one, but a post-exegetical one.
Goldsworthy readily admits this. When he gets to his steps on preparing a sermon (p. 127) he lists three steps: exegesis, hermeneutics, and homiletics. Exegesis is seeking to understand authorial intent. Hermeneutics is where he plugs in salvation history (biblical theology). This is the step that connects the OT event with Christ. Then the final step makes applications for the hearers. In one of his samples (Proverbs 8) he puts this model into practice. He unequivocally states that this personified wisdom is not intended to be Christ in the mind of the OT author (p. 189). However, it “foreshadows the role of Christ as the wisdom of God in creation” (p. 189). He does the same thing commenting on Psalm 19 (p. 204).
Goldsworthy’s quotations of Christ and the apostles at the outset of his study were a lot stronger than these biblical theological applications would suggest. “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me” (John 5:46; quoted on p. 21), is a much stronger statement than “Moses himself wasn’t thinking about me but you can get to me by considering the events of the Exodus in light of the overall shape of salvation history.” Goldsworthy is short-changing himself. It seems like Jesus and the apostles are saying that the link between the OT and Christ is an exegetical one, but Goldsworthy has made it a post-exegetical one.

2. Relying solely on salvation history focuses too much on the events of Israel’s past rather than on the inspired record of those events—the Scriptures themselves.
It is certainly not illegitimate to preach the events in themselves to accomplish a homiletical purpose—after all, the apostles did that. When dealing with non-event based portions of the OT (the Writings), there is no salvation-historical connection between that portion and Christ. Goldsworthy has a hard time dealing with these sections (p. 190). Job does not fit into the Abraham-David-Jesus schema. Ecclesiastes belongs “somewhere between Solomon and the end of the Old Testament period” (p. 190). The only way he can make The Song of Solomon work is by means of allegory (p. 191). Salvation history is not the way to connect wisdom literature to Christ since there are no "events." A canonical approach (Sailhamer’s OT Theology is the next book on my list) focusing on the literary purpose of each book of the OT would not have a problem with non-event filled literature.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Preaching from the OT: Concluding Observations from Acts

My personal study through the sermons of Acts have left me with three very broad observations.

1. The apostles have a single agenda in Acts: Jesus is Messiah and Lord.
This goes for Jewish and Gentile audiences.

2. The apostles only used the OT with people who knew the OT.
We usually find them using the OT in synagogues. Except for the Ethiopian official and Felix/Festus/Agrippa they only use the OT with Jews.

3. Because of #1 and in light of #2 the apostles' goal in their sermons was to prove to Jews that Jesus is Messiah and Lord using the OT Scriptures.
The key was to show from the OT that the Messiah had to suffer and then rise from the dead. Since Jesus claimed to be Messiah and rose from the dead, He is Messiah and Lord. The exception to this, as we have seen, is Stephen’s sermon. To help validate that Jesus was alive, the apostle’s preaching was accompanied by miraculous signs that were done in the name of Jesus. The Jews in Palestine had personally witnessed Jesus miraculous ministry for several years. The contamination of these miracles proved that Jesus was as alive as He was before His crucifixion.

Passages they use to show that the Messiah had to suffer:
Ps 2 Why do the Gentiles rage?
Ps 118 The stone that the builders rejected
Isa 53 He was led like a sheep to the slaughter

Passages they use to show that the Messiah would rise from the dead:
Ps 2 You are my Son, today I have become Your Father
Ps 16 You will not leave your Holy One in Hades
Isa 55 I will grant you the faithful covenant blessings made to David

Is any of this helpful for our preaching of the OT?
Only indirectly. The apostles used the OT to show a Jewish audience that the Jesus they had just killed was pre-determined to die at their hands and then rise from the dead. I don’t have the privilege to preach to a Jewish audience that just killed Jesus. In fact, I don’t think I have ever preached to a Jewish audience, friendly or hostile. My audience has never seen Jesus make a lame person walk. I have never made a lame person walk. When I preach the OT I preach it with a different agenda, for a different audience, in a different century.

What I can take away from it, though, is that the apostles testify that the OT is about Jesus. The cross has changed the way I must look at the OT. Jesus has fulfilled the prophetic expectation. The OT is a Christian book.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Great Article by Mark Dever: "Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?"

Mark Dever is in the process of writing a 10 part series on the Young Restless Reformed. He's fnished 2 articles already. His first 2 reasons: Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones. Looking forward to the rest of his posts!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Preaching from the OT: Pauline Sermons in Acts

As promised, here are Paul's sermons in Acts.

Reference: Acts 13:13-41
Preacher: Paul
Occasion: Sermon in the Synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia
Explicit OT References: Ps 2:7 (you are my Son); Is 55:2 (I will grant you the faithful covenant blessings made to David); Ps 16:10 (you will not allow your Holy One to see decay); Hab 1:5 (I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe)
Outcome: Many Jews and God-fearers believe

What is he doing with the OT:
Jesus is the fulfillment of Ps 2, Ps 16, and Isa 55.
The Habakkuk passage was originally God’s answer to Habakkuk’s inquiry as to how long God would continue to put up with unrighteousness in Israel. In Habakkuk it is not a word of judgment against the prophet but one of comfort. Paul adds the words “look you scoffers” and turns them into words of harsh warning.
While this is not actually part of his sermon, Paul afterwards (v. 47) quotes Isa 49:6 (I have appointed you as a light for the Gentiles) in connection with his turning away from the Jews and reaching the nations. The passage in Isaiah is a servant song and the One being the light is the Messiah. Paul, however, applies this servant song to himself and those missionaries with him. They are the appointed lights for the Gentiles

Reference: Acts 17:2-3
Preacher: Paul
Occasion: Thessalonian Synagogue
Explicit OT Reference: none
Outcome: some Jews, many Gentile God-fearers believe

What is he doing with the OT:
Even though Paul's sermon is not recorded, Luke’s phrase “as usual” is noteworthy. It was Paul’s usual practice to go to a synagogue and from the OT to show that the Messiah had to die and be raised from the dead and then to pronounce Jesus as that Messiah.

Reference; Acts 17:22-31
Preacher: Paul
Occasion: The Areopagus Address
Explicit OT Reference: none
Outcome: many ridicule, some believe

Paul does not use the OT in this sermon. He is addressing Gentile philosophers without any Jewish background. As with his other sermons, though, he climaxes with the resurrection.

Reference; Acts 22:1-21
Preacher: Paul
Occasion: Addressing a Jewish mob in Jerusalem that had been beating him until the Romans showed up and rescued him
Explicit OT Reference: none
Outcome: When he gets to the point where Jesus sends him to the Gentiles, the mob again tries to kill him

Paul does not use the OT here. His entire address is his personal testimony of conversion.

Reference: Acts 23:6-10
Preacher: Paul
Occasion: Before the Sanhedrin
Explicit OT Reference: none
Outcome: They try to kill him and the Romans come to his rescue again

Paul plays to the crowd nicely in this short address. Realizing that his audience consists of two hostile groups (Pharisees and Sadducees) he aligns himself fully with the one (Pharisees). He rightly claims that it is because of a resurrection that he is on trial. The Pharisees love that, claim him as their own, and defend him against the Sadducees.

Reference: Acts 26:1-23
Preacher: Paul
Occasion: Before Agrippa
Explicit OT Reference: none
Outcome: Agrippa finds Paul innocent but does not believe

Paul claims to be on trial because he believed in the “hope of the promise made by God to our fathers” (v. 6)—the resurrection from the dead. He further says that he is proclaiming “nothing else that what the prophets and Moses said would take place—that the Messiah must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles” (v. 22-23).

Reference: Acts 28:17-27
Preacher: Paul
Occasion: Before the Jewish leaders in Rome
Explicit OT Reference: Isa 6:9-10
Outcome: After that indictment (Isa 6) the Jews leave him and he turns his attention again to the Gentiles

He again claims to be in chains because of the “hope of Israel” (20). As always, he argues from Moses and the prophets that Jesus is the Messiah. When many Jews don’t believe, he quotes Isa 6 at them.


Paul's sermons were actually pretty basic: The resurrection proves that Jesus is both Messiah and Lord. If he addressed a Jewish crowd, he would argue from the OT that the Messiah had to suffer and be raised. When he addressed a crowd with no Jewish background he doesn't use the OT at all. Obviously, then, his focus is not that Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah, but rather Lord and Judge. The central feature in each of his recorded sermons, however, is still the resurrection.

In my next blog I hope to draw some concluding observations from the sermons in Acts.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Preaching from the OT: Non-Pauline Sermons in Acts

What better way to learn about using the OT in Sermons than reading the Apostle's sermons? Easier said than done--there's a bunch of sermons in Acts!! So this post will be just the non-Pauline sermons. We'll save Paul for next week. What I've done is put down the reference, the speaker, the occasion, the explicit OT references, and the outcome. Then I looked specifically at what they are doing with the OT in their sermons.

Reference: Acts 2:14-41
Preacher: Peter
Occasion: Pentecost
Explicit OT References: Joel 2 (“pour out my Spirit…”), Ps 16 (“not leave my soul in Hades…”)
Outcome: 3000 people get saved

What is he doing with the OT:
Pentecost fulfills (or is like: “this is that”) Joel 2
David, who was a prophet, wrote Psalm 16 about Jesus’ resurrection

Reference: Acts 3:11-26
Preacher: Peter
Occasion: Healing of the lame man at Solomon’s Colonnade
Explicit OT References: Dt 18:15-19 (“God will raise up a prophet like me…listen to him”); Gen 12:3 (“all the families of the earth will be blessed”)
Outcome: 5000 get saved and Peter and John go to jail for the night

What is he doing with the OT:
All the prophets predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer (v. 18)
From the beginning the prophets spoke of the time of restoration to come through the Messiah (v. 21)
Jesus is the promised prophet “like Moses” and those who do not listen to Him will be cut off from Israel
All the prophets from Samuel onwards spoke about these days (as much as I am tempted to say “these present days” it probably goes back to v. 21 to mean “the times of the restoration of all things” when the Messiah returns)
It is through Jesus that the Abrahamic blessings go to the whole earth

Reference: Acts 4:8-12
Preacher: Peter
Occasion: Peter and John just spent the night in jail and are facing the Sanhedrin
Explicit OT Reference: Ps 118:22 (“the stone that the builders rejected”)
Outcome: They are warned not to preach Jesus

What is he doing with the OT:
Jesus is the fulfillment of Ps 118—He was rejected (i.e. crucified) and has now become the chief corner stone (through the resurrection)

Reference: Acts 4:23-31
Prayer: Apostles
Occasion: Peter and John were just released from the Sanhedrin
Explicit OT Reference: Ps 2 (“why do the Gentiles rage?”)
Outcome: They are all filled with the Spirit, the house is shaken, and they are filled with boldness

What are they doing with the OT:
“God’s Anointed” in Ps 2 is Jesus
The “Gentiles” that are raging are identified as Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and interestingly enough the people of Israel

Reference: Acts 7:1-53
Preacher: Stephen
Occasion: Stephen is accused of blasphemy and brought before the Sanhedrin
Explicit OT References: too many to mention—from Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Amos, and Isaiah
Outcome: Stephen tells them they are just as stubborn as their ancestors and they stone him to death for it

What is he doing with the OT:
This is a very interesting sermon on several levels. Stephen basically retells the history of Israel but with an agenda. He wants to point out to them that at every instance in her history, Israel has balked against God’s messengers—even when these messengers had supernatural signs to back up their message.
Most of the sermon is about their rejection of Moses
Here’s what gets me: there is no mention of Jesus!!! At all!! There is no fulfillment language at all. There is no call to repentance! He just tells them that they are just like their forefathers and they kill him for it. So did Stephen “preach Christ”?

Reference: Acts 8:29-35
Preacher: Philip
Occasion: The Ethiopian Official
Explicit OT Reference: Isa 53
Outcome: Ethiopian gets saved

What is he doing with the OT:
Philip tells him the “good news about Jesus beginning from that Scripture” (v. 35)

Nothing except the Stephen sermon should surprize us. The preachers are Jewish and the audience is Jewish and was familiar with the OT. The common theme is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT expectation. This was the message they needed to understand. The signs and wonders were done in the name of Jesus and were proof that death could not hold Him. He was who He claimed to be and what the prophets were longing for.
Stephen's sermon struck me because it was so much different that the others. It was a sermon designed to harden not convert. Peter had already said that there is salvation is no other name but Jesus, and that name "Jesus" is not in the sermon. There is no fulfillment langauge, no invitation to believe. Just judgment.